The chairmen of three U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committees have expressed concern about proposed revisions to Title IX regulations, specifically as they might pertain to Catholic teaching on sexual orientation, gender identity, and abortion. In a separate action, the USCCB has joined an amicus curiae brief on a U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with religious liberty and LGBTQ people.
In June, the U.S. Department of Education proposed a number of revisions that would offer new federal protections to LGBTQ students and survivors of campus sexual assault. The proposed changes would, among other provisions, expand the definition of sexual harassment and clarify that Title IX “applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to Crux.
In response, the USCCB representatives—Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, and Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane—commented that the changes include “many provisions of concern to the church and her ministries, to the faithful and the common good.” The three bishops are, respectively the chairs of the USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty, Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, and Committee on Catholic Education
The bishops agreed that further study was needed to assess the revisions’ possible implications, but they worried about how provisions on pregnancy might relate to abortion access, and they spoke out against the provisions on gender identity.
“[B]y adding self-asserted ‘gender identity’ to the prohibition against sex discrimination, the rule may foreshadow a threat to women’s athletics, sex-separated spaces, and the right of students, parents, and teachers to speak the truth about the nature of the human person,” the bishops stated.
The proposal says that “preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX.” More specific rules about trans student-athletes’ rights are forthcoming.
U.S. bishops have also spoken out in support of Kelly Smirth, a web designer in Colorado who, on the grounds of her Christian faith, does not want to offer services to same-gender couples. The USCCB joined five other faith groups in filing an amici curiae brief in support of the web designer for her Supreme Court case, which is being referred to as “303 Creative,” the name of her company. The brief comments:
“Values of particular importance to the USCCB include the protection of the rights of religious organizations and religious believers under the First Amendment, and the proper development of this Court’s jurisprudence in that regard. … More broadly, our culture and our politics have become increasingly polarized, leading to regulations and policies that would force minority voices to choose between violating their conscience or being pushed from the public square.”
The Supreme Court will hear the case next term.
The USCCB frequently weighs in on legal cases, but lately, trans rights and women’s rights are particular flashpoints of political attention. More consideration before entering the fray could help improve the relationship between the bishops and LGBTQ Catholics — to foster a church, and a society that can offer dignity and welcome to all.
—Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, July 22, 2022